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The Hobbit news erupts

MartinFreeman.jpgThere's been quite a bit of movement with The Hobbit films over the last couple of days, from threats to back downs to casting and the news that the project might finally be happening...again.

It's all exciting news, but with the announcement of casting, which isn't a real surprise, it looks like the film is happening.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) announced that they were lifting the ban on working on the New Zealand production of The Hobbit, and that also rang true for the New Zealand Actors Equity, which is apparently totally run by the Australian equivalent and has a tiny proportion of the actors working in New Zealand. However that was the news that greenlit The Hobbit films.

However the story from the L.A. Times Blog comes with the official statement, which in true Hollywood style isn't actually a lifting of the ban. They announced that they...

”...have entered into an agreement to commence good faith negotiations for a new set of conditions which will govern the way in which performers are engaged in the local screen industry.”

Wait, “entered into an agreement to commence good faith negotiations”, meaning they have agreed to start discussing the conditions for working together, that's not an agreement.

Stuff.co.nz through JoBlo followed up with an interesting comment from Peter Jackson and his wife and partner in business Fran Walsh:

Sir Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh said last night the lifting of the actors union's blacklist "does nothing to help the film stay in New Zealand". "The damage inflicted on our film industry by [the actors unions] is long since done." The move has undermined Warner Brothers confidence in the industry "and they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their $500m investment".

"Next week Warners are coming down to New Zealand to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available."

Ouch. So while the unions are saying “look it's all over, we're going to talk about signing an agreement but not actually sign something”, the production of Hobbit seem to have taken the sensible option, “talk all you want, we're leaving”, and have started dismantling the offices around them while they sit in the boardroom with their demands unmet.

It's an analogy before you leap on it! However it's pretty apt. Ah well, where ever it's filmed, The Hobbit will get great returns and look wonderful and tourism will shoot up in the location it's filmed.

So more news today, which Filmstalker long friend Simone also alerted me to via Twitter, tells us that casting has been announced by New Line Cinema Chief Operating Officer and President Toby Emmerich which come through Deadline Hollywood Daily.

Bilbo Baggins is to be played by Martin Freeman, as if enough people didn't realise what a fantastic actor he already was he's now going to get worldwide recognition, good man.

Richard Armitage is set to play Thorin Oakenshield the leader of the company of Dwarves who are off to save Lonely Mountain; with Aidan Turner and Rob Kazinsky playing members of his company, Kili and Fili; Graham McTavish plays Dwalin; John Callen plays Oin; Stephen Hunter plays Bombur; Mark Hadlow plays Dori and Peter Hambleton plays Gloin.

The story carries the usual back slapping praise galore for the casting choices, but the one for Martin Freeman really carries some extra oomph:

”Despite the various rumors and speculation surround this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us...There are a few times in your career when you come across an actor who you know was born to play a role, but that was the case as soon as I met Martin. He is intelligent, funny, surprising and brave -- exactly like Bilbo and I feel incredibly proud to be able to announce that he is our Hobbit.”

Wow, praise indeed, and there's similar for Richard Armtage and check out the career changing role for Rob Kazinsky, that's superb. There are some strong British actors in there (go McTavish!) and the casting is already looking exciting.

I think Jackson has just usurped any of the negative publicity, and a move out of New Zealand announced any time now wouldn't happen with too much excitement.



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